We receive lots of emails about fat around the middle and how to blitz the old belly into shape. In some people a quick tidy up of their nutrition and they melt the muffin top away, discovering abs for the first time in years! For others it can be a case of identifying a few health issues which are actively exacerbating the situation and fuelling fat storage around the middle first…
Central Fat Is More Dangerous Than An Extra Jean Size
Sometimes people need a little reminder that some of their health issues are in fact being caused by the fact they’re overweight and need to do something about this before turning to medication and other quick fixes. You’ll be amazed at what losing a few pounds can do for you.
Being overweight is more than just extra body mass. Of course this is annoying from a wardrobe perspective and doesn’t help much in the self esteem department either, however, it’s more significant due the fact our fat actually secretes hormones and chemicals that effect numerous functions in the body.
Fat cells release inflammatory chemicals that influence the immune system and alter our hormone profile. What this means is the more fat we have the more we’re building a case for inflammatory diseases and hormone imbalances. Important processes like the metabolism of nutrients and energy production can’t happen efficiently and we’re left sick, tired, hungry and craving rubbish food all day long.
The following health problems can all be caused by increased fat mass:
- Type II diabetes and insulin resistance
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Hypertension or high blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Estrogen dominance
- Psychological problems e.g. depression and low self esteem
- Sleep apnea
- Joint problems
Types Of Belly Fat
There are two types of bodyfat:
1) Subcutaneous Fat
Found directly under the skin, this is the fat measured using calipers to estimate total body fat. Subcutaneous fat is not associated with disease risk but in excess it’s still undesirable.
2) VAT Fat
VAT is Visceral Adipose Tissue, the fat inside the abdomen surrounding your organs, including the kidney, liver, spleen, pancreas and intestines. VAT is sometimes referred to as ‘active fat’ as research suggests this type of fat secretes more of the harmful inflammatory chemicals mentioned earlier and therefore plays a much more dangerous role by damaging our hormonal function and increasing disease risk.
Visceral fat elevates inflammation and is associated with adult onset diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Visceral fat is also associated with other hormonal imbalances, including leptin resistance, high testosterone in women (exacerbating symptoms of PCOS) and low testosterone in men.
There’s no easy way to establish if your bulging belly is predominantly subcutaneous or VAT fat, however, if you’re experiencing hormonal issues, battling chronic disease or observe other symptoms of inflammation it could be a sign your VAT stores are building, which is no laughing matter.
Measuring your hip-waist ratio once a week upon waking (after popping to the loo) is a good way of assessing this health marker.
What YOU Can Do
So that’s the serious lecture done and dusted, hopefully you’re ready to take action! Aside from the obvious factors like increasing energy expenditure with more exercise and daily movement, ditching the junk food and being cautious of over consuming calories, here are three steps you may not have considered to help you get your waistline trim again:
1. Balance Blood Glucose
We know we go on about this but it is so ESSENTIAL for optimal health and disease prevention. With all the new gadgets available it couldn’t be simpler. We’ve recently purchased an glucometer that can be used on a iPhone or iPad for ease. You can follow our guide to using this tool so it couldn’t be simpler.
Most people find their readings are elevated by:
- Lack of sleep or a late night
- Processed carbohydrates
- Excess caffeine
Keeping a diary where you monitor your meals and lifestyle habits can offer an insight into what’s screwing your hormones. Fasted glucose is especially important and ideally should be below 5.0 mmols/l (90 mg/dl). If your readings are high and rising above 7.8 mmols/l (140 mg/dl) after meals this is a sign blood sugar is getting out of control, especially if they remain elevated 3 hours after eating.
2. Fix Up Your Gut
This offers multiple benefits as a healthier balance of gut microbiome helps establish a more optimal hormone profile, lowers inflammation and boosts metabolic health. However, supporting digestive health and building a strong, robust gut will also decrease infections and damage to the gastrointestinal tract which means less bloating, wind and water retention around the middle, speeding your journey to a flatter stomach.
To support digestive health:
- Gluten grains
- Additives, preservatives, e-numbers and anything you don’t recognise as food
- Some FODMAP foods, especially wheat and lactose
- Artificial sweeteners
- Organ meats, check out our recipes
- Bone broth – Find out how & why HERE
- Live foods such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha
- Herbs and spices, especially oregano, cinnamon and tumeric
- Apple cider vinegar as a digestive aid at mealtimes
3. Manage Stress
Stress does two things to directly influence belly fat, it derails blood sugar levels by demanding glucose to fuel a stress response. In turn this leads you to crave more sugar, caffeine and refined carbs to keep yourself energised. The stress hormone; cortisol also increases an enzyme known as lipoprotein lipase that instructs the body to store more fat around the middle.
There are other more indirect ways stress can increase abdominal fat by disrupting digestive health, disturbing sleep and making us miserable so we need chocolate, cheese and wine to cheer ourselves up. Implementing active stress management everyday can make a huge difference to your hormone health. How you cope with stress and resolve the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it is very subjective but the following are a great starting place:
- Meditation (try Headspace App)
- Practice Mindfulness: colouring books, jigsaw puzzles, walking outdoors or reading
- Epsom salts baths
Taking adaptogenic herbs like Rholdiola, Siberian Ginseng and Ashwaganda can also support fat loss around the middle by helping to rebalance excessive cortisol.
NOTE: High cortisol in the presence of high insulin will always encourage weight gain around the waist, so if you’re stressed and riding on sugar and processed foods your waistline and all the inflammatory chemicals that come with it will continue to increase.
Time For A Reboot?
If you know this information already but struggle to implement it on a daily basis or feel overwhelmed as to where to start our Fitter 16 Lifestyle Transformation plan is a great place to start.
Fitter 16 is NOT a fad diet, quick fix or unsustainable training regime. Over the 16 weeks you will be expertly guided through 4 progressive phases which are essential for long term fat loss, enabling you to get real results and make them last.